I also did a little work in Hollywood in those years, coming out to California from time to time and staying with my good friend Harlan Ellison. I would typically stay about a month, do a little screen work, and return to New York to continue writing short stories for the New York market. I sold my story "Watchbird" to Outer Limits during that time, and was hired to write the script. I was working along with reasonable happiness when I got a call from the studio. The powers that be wanted me to explain how they would show that on screen. My story, which they had bought rights to, told what a Watchbird looked like, and as for how to show it, that was certainly their problem, not mine. I asked to be taken off the project, and soon returned to New York.
More impressive for me was a chance to sell my short story writing services to Beyond the Green Door, for Monitor Radio. In this one, Basil Rathbone read brief stories with surprise endings. The program had a five-minute format, and that format required three breaks for commercials. This made it about a 1,000 to 1,500-word story, structured in a particular way. This was just the kind of problem I liked: a technical one, without a lot of collegiate chatter about meaning, effect, etc. That I had solved those matters, at least to an extent, had to be obvious from the listener's reaction to the story itself. It would have been easy enough to write three or thirty times as much wordage on each story, far easier than to write the story itself. But that was not my way. I have lost or misplaced most of the stories in the years since then, and have been unable to find the radio recordings (better researchers than I have looked for them, too), but I have
been able to find and publish five of the sixty.
I turned these stories in each week, five of them. My entire life became a matter of looking for plots all day, then writing furiously half the night. That was very much my idea of the sort of thing a pulp writer ought to do, so I didn't resent it. But at the end of sixty days I asked for some time off. The producers were unwilling to grant that, so I quit. I stayed quit despite a very nice telephone call from Mr. Rathbone himself, requesting me to go on. He was one of my heroes, but I refused to work any longer at that pace, even for him. And the $60 they paid me per story was not a huge inducement.
So much happened to me in that ten-year period. During that time I wrote my first novel, Immortality Inc., which I sold first as a four-part serial to Galaxy magazine under the title "Time Killer." Writing it in four 15,000 word segments was easier to my short story writer mind than considering an entire 60,000-word novel in its own right. Some years later I sold the story to Ron Shusset, who adapted it for a movie which was called Freejack, and starred Emilio Estevez, Renee Russo, and Mick Jagger. I didn't think too much of the movie -- maybe because I already knew the plot. But before that, also in this period, I sold my short story "The Seventh Victim" to Carlo Ponti, who gave it to the director Elio Petri who made The Tenth Victim. I rather liked this movie. One of my favorite actors was in the starring role -- Marcello Mastroianni -- though I didn't think he looked his best in blond hair.